RSVP plans to pull volunteers out of Lyon

YERINGTON -- Offended by remarks made by Lyon County commissioners during her annual request for funding, Nevada Rural Counties Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Executive Director Janice Ayres is pulling most RSVP volunteer services from Lyon County, effective April 30.

Exceptions to the withdrawal are the Home Companion Program, Lifeline Program, Resistance Training Exercise Program and the Transportation Program in Smith and Mason Valley.

"Not one county has ever treated me like that. This disregard and unprofessional treatment of people is unforgivable," Ayres said of her March 28 presentation. "We will not accept any of their money. We are through with Lyon County and I don't ever want to appear before them again."

Ayres said the remaining programs are partly funded with federal Independent Living grants and RSVP is willing to put in its own non-federal funding to help make them work.

"These are the persons who are most vulnerable and would be most adversely affected if we discontinued their services. RSVP feels a responsibility for these persons and will continue to serve them regardless of your participation," Ayres and RSVP Board President Jerry Thurman said in an April 1 letter to commissioners.

During the March 28 budget workshop meeting, Commissioner Bob Milz asked Ayres for details about what each volunteer does and what RSVP has paid out to them, saying he did not consider Ayres' information as proof of what RSVP is doing in Lyon County.

Without that information, he said, he could not justify allocating funding to her program.

"You have these figures written down, but we are only taking your word for it," Milz said. "We'd like to see exactly what it is. You obviously don't even know yourself what some of this is. You say you have all these (people) involved, but what have you paid out to them?"

Ayres said federal and state laws governing access to personal records prevented her from providing the requested information. The Corporation for National Service, RSVP's federal funding agency, states in its handbook, "Due to the confidential nature of the information contained in the volunteer personnel folder, the corporation recommends that the folders by kept in secured files."

RSVP programs are audited annually for fiscal and programmatic compliance by all of its funding agencies, including Corporation for National Service, Nevada Division for Aging Services, United Way, as well as the CPA firm of Freeman and Williams.

"When you have 2,600 volunteers in 15 counties, you can't personally keep track of every piece of paper that comes through. There's an element of trust here. I would hope that we don't just sit down here and make up these figures," Ayres said. "No other county has asked me in the 23 years I've been here to back up what I've put down."

Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill supported Milz' request for more information.

"Nowhere in this paperwork am I coming up with these programs you are talking about and what the cost has been to our county. That is a whole another issue that has not been addressed here."

Lyon County allocated $5,000 to RSVP in 2001-02 and has the same amount in the 2002-03 tentative budget.

According to Ayres, last year it cost RSVP $116,542 to support 39,192 hours by 172 Lyon County RSVP volunteers to 41 agencies. Volunteers are allotted out-of-pocket expenses, on-the-job accident insurance and three types of liability insurance.

Begun in 1974 as a five-county program including Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Churchill counties the 15-county program provides volunteer opportunities for people 55 years and older to non-profit and government social agencies. There are 1,900 volunteers throughout the 15 rural counties. The total cost for each volunteer is $677. Federal funding covers $170 for 900 volunteers. RSVP must raise the remaining funding through grants, donations and fund-raisers.

Nevada Rural Counties RSVP volunteers and Ayres have been recognized by a number of agencies for their efforts, including United Way, the Governor's office, Carson City Chamber of Commerce, Carson City and Carson Valley Soroptimists, in the Congressional Senate Labor Health & Human Services Report and J.C.Penny Golden Rule Award.

"RSVP has read numerous newspaper reports over the years quotes from various Lyon County Senior Services personnel that volunteers in many of the programs would remain even if RSVP withdrew," Ayres said.

"If that is the case, then this won't cause any disruption in senior programs." On hearing of RSVP's withdrawal, Lyon County Human Services Director Edrie LaVoie said, "I'm sorry it has come to this. I think the focus needs to be on the volunteers. It's important their volunteer time at he senior center is a positive experience. I would suggest Lyon County look at other options to ensure the volunteers are recognized."


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